UKBA backlogs: Inspectors find thousands of new cases


John Vine, chief inspector of immigration: "The agency is bedevilled with paper"

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Immigration inspectors have discovered more UK Border Agency (UKBA) backlogs, totalling more than 16,000 cases.

The chief inspector of immigration said the latest backlogs, relating to requests to settle through marriage, were "unacceptable".

The backlogs included people waiting a decade to hear if their partner had permission to live in the UK.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper denied the Border Agency was a "shambles", and said managers were "getting a grip".

The marriage or civil partnership-related backlog is thought to be the 10th category of unresolved cases that has emerged in the past two years.

Inspectors looked at how well the agency was handling applications from people from outside the European Economic Area who have a partner already in the country, such as a husband or wife who is British.


Graphic showing the size of the backlog against the total number of immigration cases.
  • Live asylum cases: 25,500
  • Asylum controlled archive: 74,000
  • Live immigration cases: 3,500
  • Immigration controlled archive: 21,000
  • Migration Refusal Pool: 174,057
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders living in the community: 3,954
  • Ex-Foreign National Offenders untraced: 53
  • Student visa checks backlog: Unknown number
  • Rejected Spousal application seeking reconsideration: 14,000
  • Temporary migrants including marriage applicants: 2,100 (now closed)
  • Total: 316,000

Sources: Home Affairs Committee and inspection reports, Home Office

John Vine, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said the majority of decisions were reasonable and caseworkers checked whether applicants were known criminals.

But he said his team had found a backlog of 14,000 cases where the UKBA failed to deal with requests to reconsider decisions after an initial rejection.

When inspectors visited a UKBA office in Sheffield they found a further backlog of 2,100 "complex" temporary migration cases. These included 180 marriage entry or settlement applications which had not received an initial decision. Some dated back to 2003.

One inspector said the unresolved applications had been effectively "dumped" on the Sheffield team after being transferred in a box from the UKBA's Croydon offices. Officials have since dealt with these cases.

At the time of the inspection last year, the marriage-related backlog was growing at a rate of 700 cases a month. Caseworkers told inspectors they could not deal with them until they had received new policy guidance.

However, a senior manager told inspectors that agency chiefs were unaware that these cases were not being dealt with and staff could make decisions without waiting for new policy.

'Not acceptable'

Mr Vine said: "I don't think I should be discovering these backlogs. The agency should know about its workload. It should prioritise its resources and, at the very least, have a plan to deal with some of the things that we come across in inspection.

"For people to be in such a backlog of cases is not acceptable and I urge the agency to deal with the cases swiftly. To wait such a long time, even if your case is complex, is completely outside any service standards."

Case study

Gerard Hearne, from Rotherham, has been trying to bring his Thai wife to the UK since last year.

"We got married in early February out there. I came back after two weeks, I had to get back to the UK," he says.

"I kept thinking... two months, three months, she'll have her visa.

"When she was turned down in October and I organised the appeal, I went out there in late November.

"I went to spend a month with her and I naively thought that by having sent the appeal into Leicester that that would be forwarded to Bangkok, they would quickly check it through, 'say yes, ok'.

"And I, naively, thought my wife would be coming back to me for Christmas on 22 December.

"As the month went on it became apparent that that was never going to happen. I did actually ring the embassy at one point to say 'have you got the documentation?'

"I just try and get through each day. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel reasonable ok and other days I feel so low, so down. It's difficult to know how to keep going. "

The immigration minister said: "We inherited an agency which had a lot of problems, we've got a new management team to deal with it. They're getting a grip and dealing with it."

Mr Harper said 14,000 of the cases "weren't people waiting for a decision", but people "who didn't like the decision and didn't go through the proper appeal mechanism".

"And what the Border Agency should have said in the past, it should have said 'no, there's an appeal process, if you don't like the decision, appeal'," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"But it didn't do that, it kind of accepted these requests [and] didn't have a process to deal with them.

"We have now got a clear policy, published, about how we deal with those - which is people should appeal properly and those people who have been refused are not allowed to stay here. Should leave the country and we will be taking steps to make sure that they do."

Lin Homer, who headed the Border and Immigration Agency and later the UK Border Agency, between 2005 and 2010, is currently chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs.

Chart showing the number of spouses and civil partners granted leave to remain in the UK since

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  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    The day a UK govt has the guts to bring immigration under control,is the day we get a referendum on the EU,i.e. pigs will fly long before either.Hundreds of thousands scattered untraceable,and the least concern the electorate shows and the liberals throw up the 'bigot' and 'closet racist' defence.Get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    I'm a British Citizen and my partner Canadian. 5 years ago a teaching agency recruited her in Canada to come here. Many of her Canadian colleges deported whilst teaching cited as no longer 'needed' and sent back home. We had to jump through hoops for years with paperwork and after £1000's and trips to the UKBA she can stay for good.

    No contribution = right to stay? For some it seems *sigh*

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Remarkable that the traceable,recordable,law-abiding migrants,eg from US and Australia,face the greatest unheaval,uncertainty,expense,while hundreds of thousands from the Balkans,Middle East,Afghanistan,among whom are militant dangerous elements,seem to have flocked to these shores unhindered,to be dispersed under Blair.As for Thai bride,an unfortunate example given the connotations..

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    Its well know that immigrants are eligable for benefits,free school,NHS, English lessons etc plus Lib Dems want amnesty for those here who have hidden for some time so they too will be able to claim legally, even though they are committing crimes or cash in hand jobs. When the Roumanians come it will be worse & Turkey. What benefits can Brits go to claim in another country. Nothing I suspect

  • Comment number 412.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 411.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    Stop immigration simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    "Unlike you who pays tax but get public services,purely because you were born here(costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands in free schooling etc)"

    Really, then maybe I should pay tax in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland and be better off? idiot comment.
    British Tax payers FIRST, everyone else (including British benefit claimants, EU works, non EU workers etc SECOND). It's not difficult...

  • Comment number 408.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Rainfordian-you need to do some simple research and read what it says on the marriage visa, its quite clear.
    In simple words this means they pay tax but can't claim anything.
    Unlike you who pays tax but get public services,purely because you were born here(costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands in free schooling etc)EU migrants are a different story

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    UKBA has only a fraction of the staff they need.
    Minster - be honest for once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Benefits + house + free school meals + NHS + anything else we can think of, where can I sign up for all these freebies I've NOT contributed towards?
    ...hang on a minute though, I'm British, pay 40% tax and work 50 hours a week+ so I DON'T fit the criteria...

    Not surprised there's a 10 year backlog, it's very obviously worth the wait!!!

    Still, so proud to be "Great" Britain and friend to the poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    This is about marriage visas-that means Brit nationals marrying Non EU nationals so how can anyone complain about immigration.Who has the right to tell YOU,a British Citizen,who you can and cannot marry?Yes,there are sham marriages,where BRIT NATIONALS take money to get married,so their 'partner' gets a visa.Would you,the taxpayer,like to pay for some civil servants to stop this?Who wanted cuts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Real people with real reason to come live and work here struggle to get their applications processed. People that come here and claim asylum on human rights grounds and claim benefits, who do not work are processed immediately
    Something wrong somewhere!
    Why not put the troops beeing made redundant from HM Forces on the Borders instead of the incompetent UKBA

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    the BNP would soon get rid of the backlog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    The Tories pretence and Labours inaction on immigration will turn millions to vote for UKIP, I know three now who have always voted Labour but the Jan 2014 influx of

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Border Agency - Not fit for purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Also one comment I read that if an application ios denied a person can re-apply. you don;t get your money back if your application is denied and it can be quite expensive (I just paid £1350 to go to the Croydon office for a settlement Visa application for my Wife. Thankfully It was accepted but I would have lost a large sum of money if rejected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    @ 391. ajanelson Yes I agree that the system is a ruined, the only explanation for this is that there are too many foreigners coming in.The only reasons for letting foreigners in should be for love; close relatives and spouses, top university lecturers and surgeons. We don't need chefs, sales assistants, we actually have enough doctors and nurses and too many scientists and engineers

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    The UKBA is a farce and an embarrassment. How many more backlogs are going to be found before those at the top finally start kicking butt to sort the UKBA out? Enough fine words, we need action now. No excuses, an organisation this incompetent needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with people able to do their jobs properly.


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